Under a black winter sky, just yards from where she was expected to show up for work that evening, Timorie Millender lay dying.
Sprawled face-down in the middle of the roadway on Patterson Avenue, the Santa Barbara woman had been struck by a motorcyclist as she was crossing the street to start her shift as an EMT at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
She wasn’t breathing when she was spotted by off-duty EMT and Santa Barbara fire engineer Jack Franklin, who was leaving the hospital with his wife and daughter after visiting family there.
The motorcycle had been traveling at 50 miles per hour when it hit Millender, its driver was ejected, and Millender’s body came to rest 100 feet down the road.
“She was a bloody mess,” recalled Franklin, a paramedic for 32 years. He remembers being covered in Millender’s blood, by then running into the gutter on the street, as he began mouth-to-mouth breathing.
Franklin remembers seeing the woman’s hospital ID around her neck, and though he didn’t realize it at the time, Millender had been one of his students in the Emergency Medical Technician program at Santa Barbara City College.
His wife called 9-1-1 and an ambulance arrived four minutes later, just as Millender started to breathe on her own.
“After she left [in the ambulance], I looked at my wife and said, ‘She’s not going to make it,’” he said.
But with tears in his eyes, Franklin sat just feet away from a mostly recovered Millender on Tuesday at Santa Barbara Fire Headquarters. For his efforts last December, Franklin has been awarded the California Emergency Medical Services Authority’s Award for Heroism and will travel to San Francisco next month to receive the award.
Capt. Chris Mailes recommended Franklin for the award this year, and spoke with reporters about Franklin’s heroic act.
Responding to emergencies is what they do, Mailes said, “but when you are off-duty with your wife and child and find this horrific accident, it really catches you off guard.”
Both Franklin and Mailes had been the EMT instructors at Santa Barbara City College for more than 20 years, and see about 300 students come through their program annually.
“Coincidentally, Timorie had been one of our students,” Mailes said. “I think life comes full circle sometimes.”
Angelo Salvucci, who is the director of Cottage Hospital’s trauma center, also spoke Tuesday about some of Millender’s injuries, which included traumatic brain injury, a shattered pelvis and multiple fractures across her body.
“What [Franklin] did truly saved her life,” Salvucci said.
The motorcyclist had also suffered serious injuries in the incident. The man had his visor up so he could see that night, and Millender’s left elbow went into his face and eye, causing facial fractures that kept him in the hospital for two weeks, Franklin said.
Millender, soft-spoken but in good spirits Tuesday, recalled waking up in the hospital and said recovery from the injury “was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.”
She thanked Franklin for what he’d done, and the pair embraced.
Franklin went to visit her several times while she was in rehab, but Tuesday was the first time he had seen her out of the hospital.
“I think about you every day,” he told her. “It’s definitely one of those calls I’ll remember forever.”